Saudi Issues 'Fatwa' Against Pokemon

ByABC News
March 26, 2001, 4:10 PM

March 26 -- They've been called baffling, time-consuming, even "psychologically unhealthy" for children, but now, there's a new charge levied against Pokémon games and cards: un-Islamic.

Saudi Arabian authorities have decreed that there's no place for the imaginary, superpowered creatures that make up the Pokémon universe in the Islamic state. The country's highest religious authority issued a fatwa against Pokémon cards and games.

Accusing the immensely popular game of "possessing the minds" of children while promoting Zionism and gambling, Saudi Arabia's Higher Committee for Scientific Research and Islamic Law issued the fatwa, or religious verdict, this weekend.

In a statement aired on Qatar's Al Jazeera TV, Sheik Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah al-Sheik, Saudi Arabia's mufti or high priest, warned Muslim parents to "beware of this game." He urged parents to prevent their children from playing with Pokémon cards and games in order to "protect their religion and manners."

Trouble With the Adult World

This is not the first time Pikachu and his popular band of good and evil characters have run into trouble with the adult world.

Ever since the Pokémon phenomenon hit the market three years ago, parents, school authorities and child psychologists have been at a loss to understand the obsessive hold Pokémon games have had over children.

Bans against the Pokémon cards and games stretch across many schools in the United States, Britain and Mexico, to name a few. Last year, Turkish authorities ordered a television channel to stop airing the Pokémon cartoon series after two children leaped from balconies, allegedly believing they had superhuman powers. Both children survived.

Not Quite Islamic

But this is the first time the Japanese-born game phenomenon has been banned for religious reasons.

And it's the boggling array of symbols that has come under attack. Most Pokémon cards typically have a brightly colored picture of a character along with geometric symbols corresponding to the fanciful powers it possesses.